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SallyBR_'s picture

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Yeap, I will be flying in one... to go to Europe on Friday. IN case you did not know, I am scared of flying, and would much rather go driving. Unfortunately, my car has problems with salt water. Never took the 747 before - huge thing. Guess it's one of the safest planes, though - any good experiences to pump me up? (skip the bad ones, please)

Jean_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #1 of 127)

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Statistically, you're safer in the plane than in your car. Ask your doctor for a mild sedative to take before takeoff, but leave the booze alone.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #2 of 127)

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I am a white-knuckled flyer at best. Daughter is a seasoned flyer...little snot ;).

Have a good trip. A drinkeepoo might help calm the jitters. Keep in mind, you're better off on the larger aircraft. I had to take a puddle jumper the first time I came to Colorado and, dude, they give new meaning to
i shaken, not stirred.
747's are extremely safe.

BTW, add insult to injury, I can't
i read
on a plane either. I get motion sick - if I don't have CD's I spend my flight being bored (and petrified).

SallyBR_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #3 of 127)

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I hear you, Chiff... I can read, as long as there is no turbulence, or as long as I don t THINK about the possibility of turbulence. My beloved usually falls asleep when we hit the skies, so there is not much help there - he actually seems to enjoy when the plane shakes, wakes up briefly, smiles and goes back to sleep again. Nerve wrecking to me. Being from far away, I have to face long flights often - I know the statistics, I know the odds are not against me, but I tell you, the thoughts that cross my mind when I first enter the plane (you know, in that point of "no return")... are not pretty at all.

Ian.D.Gilham.'s picture

(post #57237, reply #4 of 127)

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Sally,
Turbulence is much less noticeable if you sit in the middle of the centre row of seats, in the middle of the wings (if you can) It's the point of balance.

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #5 of 127)

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Hi Sally,

My day job is flying airliners. Been doing that for some 30 odd years. Still here to talk about it . I know this may sound trite, but believe me the folks who are up front make sure that you will come to no harm.

I understand your anxiety. We did not evolve with wings after all.

Try to picture turbulence as the equivalent of driving over a pothole(s) or canoeing in choppy water. Air and water are similar in that they both have motion, eddies, and are influenced by exterior forces. River water by the shape of the banks, the bed, the flow and so on. Ocean water by the heating of the sun, rotation of the earth and other geophysical factors. The end result is that it is not a uniformly calm medium. The same applies to the atmosphere. I have to be careful here not to digress into an essay on weather in general. Generally speaking however most of flights are of a calm nature

The reason for that is careful planning on the part of airline dispatchers and meteorologists. Atmospheric knowledge these days is very sophisticated. For instance a flight will be dispatched from A to B on a route to minimize turbulence. Even if it takes it hundreds of miles from a direct routing. I am not making this up. It happens every day. The reason? Passenger comfort.

Pilots are always asking enroute about the ride up ahead. If we hear there is some turb at a certain altitude, we seek a different one if it is reported smooth.

There are days however when you simply have to live with it. In spite of everyone's best efforts. Certain parts of the world at certain times of the year will damn near always have it. (Winter months on the routes from the west coast to Hawaii for instance).

Which brings me to the airplane itself. Sally, these contraptions are built like tanks with respect to turbulence. They are a lot tougher than the human body. If you are unfortunate enough to encounter some chop and have a view of the wing, look at it and think of the way it was designed, to bend and absorb the gusts. Think of the engineering that went into making a wing that can bend some plus or minus 15 feet odd feet at the tips and carry a load of close to three quarters of a million pounds. And do this again and again for 30 years.

Over the years I have met a lot of folks on the airplane who were not comfortable. It ranged from the terrified to the mildly apprehensive. On Canadian registered airplanes we have the legal leeway to have passengers visit the cockpit. Typically a flight attendant would come up and say that so and so passenger was really nervous/apprehensive/terrified and could we perhaps have him/her peek into the cockpit to reassure them. It is really wonderful to see such a person relax after being there for a while. We explain the basic idea of how this all works, perhaps even show a slight turn or two. Sometimes Sally, that is the key to making someone feel at ease with the environment. It is very rewarding.
I hope this helped a little bit.

Cheers

Peter

kai_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #6 of 127)

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i Think of the engineering that went into making a wing that can bend some plus or minus 15 feet odd feet at the tips and carry a load of close to three quarters of a million pounds. And do this again and again for 30 years.

Oh, I hope I can remember that the next time the wings flap like they are going to come off! Turbulance is scarier to me than take-offs/landings, even though I know the take-offs/landings are more dangerous--also, to me, more thrilling--well, I guess that would be obvious if one thinks it might be one's last moments.

Thanks for your comforting thoughts :-)

ashleyd_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #7 of 127)

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As an experienced long distance passenger I always breathe a sigh of relief when I see that we're flying in a 747. Overall the comfort, space and amenity levels are better in that than any other plane, and a safety record not to be sniffed at. Of course standards will vary from airline to airline, but overall it gets my vote everytime.

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #8 of 127)

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Hello Ashleyd,

If you get a chance, try out the 777. Its as good as it gets.

Peter

SallyBR_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #9 of 127)

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Peter,

I typed a long message and lost it when I tried to post!
:-(

Thanks so much for your post, I printed it out and not only will take it with me this week, but will take it in every single trip from now on

I had three bad flying experiences - first a pressurization/oxygen mask problem that forced the pilot to do a quick dive to lower altitude without having time to warn us about it. The whole plane thought we were going to crash. I was 16 at the time, flying alone.

Second was a landing in VERY stormy San Francisco, when a lightning hit the plane, in 1994

Third a flight in a small plane from St. Louis to Oklahoma City, two hours of intense turbulence, as we had to fly in between two storms - when we landed, the stewardess let go a loud: WE MADE IT!!! (gives an idea of how bad the flight was.. :-) This was 4 years ago.

The two first events did not traumatize me, somehow only after age 35 I got scared of flying - I guess it has to do with a need to be "in control" of everything. As they won t allow me to fly the plane, I panic!

BY THE WAY, we will come back from Paris in a Boeing 777 (my first time too, never been in that either)

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #10 of 127)

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Sally,

Sounds like you had some trying times in airplanes.

Look on the pressure problem as the backup safety mechanism and procedure that worked. A loss of cabin pressure is a rare event but all airliners are required to have this system redundancy. We train extensively for this and do it in simulators twice a year. Unfortunately the nature of the beast is that this event can happen very fast so there is no time to warn anyone about the subsequent descent. You can imagine we are somewhat busy up there at the time. And descend we do! Incidentally on the newer aircraft there is an automatic PA that comes on when the masks are deployed.

As for lightning, well I have had my share of strikes. Most are simply shed back to the atmosphere via the 20 or so static dischargers mounted on the trailing edges of the wing and tail. But it can make a loud noise. From time to time it can poke a small hole in the plastic cover of the nose mounted radar. That compartment is outside the pressure hull so it is of no consequence to the passengers. Its just expensive to replace when we land. Lightning itself is pretty harmless to an airplane. You will not get fried. Think of birds landing on high voltage wires. There is nowhere for the current to flow to ground, so they are ok.

Flying in the Midwest can be very unpleasant as you found out. The thunderstorms there are numerous. No one penetrates them but the turb does extend for some distance from the cores. Moderate and higher turb is not fun. Makes folks sick. Believe me, we all want to avoid it, but there are some days…s*** happens. In the course of my career I have had to turn back a few times because I saw on the radar that there was no safe passage to use to get from here to there. And then what happens is that passengers get pissed off at you for not bringing them to their destination on time. Some days you think you would have better of having stayed in bed .

Let me know if I can answer any more concerns.

Cheers,

Peter

Seema_Shastry's picture

(post #57237, reply #11 of 127)

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Peter, your post is really thoughtful & helpful. I'm printing it out to give it to my mom coz she's terrified of flying. It will give her something to think about the next time she flies. Thanks a bunch.

ashleyd_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #12 of 127)

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Been there. Flew that. No big deal. And I don't like ETOPS.

Cooking_Monster's picture

(post #57237, reply #13 of 127)

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Peter, thanks for your posts - all this information helps put me at ease too. I used to really love flying - not so much in large planes, which have always reminded me of busses with wings, but small planes, the smaller the better. Then, about 6 hears ago I had an experience very similar to Sally's #3. All it took was seeing the look on the flight attendant's face as we were coming in for landing. I instantly became afraid of flying, and have taken to panicking in the air ever since, especially in little planes. In the past year I think I've finally started to get over it, thank goodness. I'm still not up to the Lethbridge-Calgary run yet, but I'm hopeful.

Ona totally unrelated note, it's always seemed to me that the larger the plane, the gentler the bumps when you hit turbulence. Is this really true?

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #14 of 127)

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Hi CM

Its true that a large airplane will not feel the same bumps as a light general aviation plane. Think of the difference for instance of being in a rubber raft and on a large ocean going vessel traveling through the same mildly choppy waters.

Having said that, the design of the wing on large airplanes affect the way they penetrate turb. 747s, 767s and 777s all have a somewhat flexible wing and that flexing will dissipate some of the effects. Other types such as 737s,DC9s, DC10s, MD11s have a more ridge structure and the turb will "feel" different. They will not wallow as much.

Compare it to the ride over a bumpy road with soft shock absorbers and with stiff shock absorbers.

Also on the more advanced designs we have active gust alleviation. Sensors at the forward part of the plane sense a "bump" a few microseconds before the wings encounter it. Computers send a signal to the various control surfaces to help counteract some of the effect as the wing penetrates the disturbance.

Cheers

Peter

MadMom_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #15 of 127)

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Peter - thanks so much for all the info. I used to be terrified of flying. I flew a lot, but never seriously got onto a plane expecting to get off alive. The best thing I ever did was take flying lessons. Didn't get my license (they shut down the aero club before I got to solo...something about students crashing planes) but just the experience of being in control gave me so much more confidence. I think all of us
b know
we're safer in a plane than in a car, but somehow knowing that and relaxing are two different things. I think anyone who has flown a lot has had disturbing experiences. My worst ones were an emergency landing in Atlanta on the way to DC (plane's windshield was cracking) and a really turbulent flight when the flight attendant kept going up and down the aisle muttering "we're gonna make it...we're gonna make it...we're gonna make it"...talk about something that makes you wonder if you're gonna make it! And then, of course, there's the occasional missed approach when you are almost on the runway when the snow closes in and the plane zooms up (leaving your stomach back there on the ground.) Oh well, I've lived to tell my stories, and at this ripe old age, just figure that when my time is up, that I'd like to go quickly, so a plane isn't the worst way.

SallyBR_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #16 of 127)

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Peter, me again.... You know one thing that helps me, is when the pilot (or co-pilot, not sure who) TALKS to us poor mortals in the cabine when there is something strange going on, or when there is turbulence. Somehow that soothing voice makes me feel better, because when they speak, there is never any fear or worry in their voice. Ok, maybe all of you get enough training to be Oscar-winning actors in the cockpit, but still... I absolutely HATE when the thing is shaking, falling in those "pockets of air" (irony), going up again, and the pilot only says something when it's time to thank us for choosing American Airlines, and hope to see you soon, enjoy your time in your final destination (that always makes me sweat a little, because my real final destination is a mistery that I am in no hurry to uncover) Well, I definitely loved to "meet" you here - I might ask for your help and advice on flying every now and then, if you don t mind.

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #57237, reply #17 of 127)

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Sally, you probably don't want to here my stories.

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #18 of 127)

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Hi MM

"And then, of course, there's the occasional missed approach when you are almost on the runway when the snow closes in and the plane zooms up (leaving your stomach back there on the ground.)"

Ahh, the missed approach. A maneuver that causes some anxiety among the customers and flight attendants (for different reasons). It can happen anytime when on final approach up to and including a momentary touchdown. It boils down to simply discontinuing the landing. Many reasons for it. The airplane ahead of you did not make the usual turnoff on the runway and continued to the end; a vehicle or other aircraft on the ground makes an accidental incursion on to the runway; or wildlife on the runway. It could be weather related: you descend to minimum altitude (that altitude where you have to have visual contact) and you cannot see the approach lights/runway. Or things have become just too gusty or turbulent; a sudden wind shift and so on. It goes on and on. The point being that we always have an out.

So the missed approach is a pretty standard maneuver. Not all that uncommon. For a passenger however it takes on a different perspective. You see when this happens, typically we go from being in a descending position with the engines at about 70% power to a rapid pitch up, full power and the additional hydraulic noise associated with the retraction of the wheels and flaps. Lot of change in about 5-10 seconds. We then fly a predetermined route and ascend to a predetermined altitude. As you can appreciate this is a very busy time in the cockpit and we simply cannot get on that PA for a few minutes.

So unfortunately the passengers are left in the dark for a while. The flight attendants are probably thinking that we may have to go to our alternate airport and this translates into a potentially very long day .

Cheers,

Peter

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #19 of 127)

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Anytime Sally.

This whole concept of being airborne is a bit of a question mark for a lot of folks. It would be a privilege to be able to demystify it as much as possible. I will enjoy trying to remove some of the fear of the unknown. Ask away

Peter

kai_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #20 of 127)

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Here or elsewhere, I'd like to hear them, considering that you survived.

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #21 of 127)

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Folks, lets not spook Sally or others who are apprehensive about having to fly. Would there be any advantage or good to come from it? A few years ago we were advised by a flight attendant that a lady was showing all the signs of being terrified of flying. This after we were airborne for an hour. The first officer (co-pilot) remarked something along the lines of "..then what the hell is she doing here?" I remember telling him that she was being a hell of a lot braver than I could ever be. Fear is fear. And I will not pass judgment on its cause.

Peter

kai_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #22 of 127)

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Well, then MC, I'm still interested. It would help (me) to know some of these very very spooky things are just part of a normal flight. I had no idea a huge drop w/no pilot warning was normal, or wings flapping 15 feet, or touch and go landing/takeoffs, or that lighting is not a potential problem, etc. Sheesh, even xdhlast-pilot didn't share this info!

SallyBR_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #23 of 127)

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Well, let's do this... for the sake of freedom of speech... wait until Friday afternoon, by then my plane will be flying and I promise not to log into CT until I'm back! But don't worry, Peter - I am that kind of person who looks for trouble - guess one of the boomarks I have in my computer? Has the sweet title of "Airline Disasters".... I never log into it before travelling, but every now and then I cannot resist and go take a look at statistics and things like that. Yeap, I am that crazy. So, Mean Chef, feel free to share your experiences this weekend... :-)

Jean_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #24 of 127)

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OOOooo I wanted to say that! But I have to try to be nice today. LOL

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #25 of 127)

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So ask. It will be enjoyable for me to tell you about this stuff.

Adele_'s picture

(post #57237, reply #26 of 127)

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Well. I LOVE being in planes. I get a rush during take off, the flight itself and the landing.

Turbulance? I'm prepared, and I KNOW the pilots are. They are not in any way, shape or form going to let the vehicle crash or do whatever is in your imagination.

My first flight was at age 5, many since then, had an engine stall on a 2 engine aircraft from NYC to Dutchess County, (shuttle), never even blinked. No panic, the pilot kept us updated, and was calm, kept us calm by his continuios (Sic) reports. Landed safely.

Mom, on the other hand, has travelled w/Dad for 40 some years and still has to have a 'wee vodka' or a valium (sic again, sorry) to get on the plane, The trip to Japan was 16+ hours and she was like, well, I won't tell you, because its my Mom. LOL.

Anyhoooo, get on the plane, have no worries, remember, it's the pilots life too.

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #27 of 127)

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Old cliché: we are the first to arrive….

SandraM's picture

(post #57237, reply #28 of 127)

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Sally, it probably isn't helpful, but just to let you know you're not alone when it comes to irrational fears, I can be paralysed with fright when it comes to heights - have even been spooked by a simple set of stairs on occasion.

I also used to be afraid of flying - I got over it when I had to make a red-eye flight to Ont. for a funeral, with my then-two-year-old son in tow. Was determined not to pass my fear on to him, so I forced myself to take a window seat, and watch the whole process of fuelling, take-off, and climbing from the perspective of a fascinated little boy. It worked! Was also helped by a very kind gentleman in the seat next to me who, perceiving the cold sweat behind my calm demeanour, kept me well-supplied with scotch. Haven't feared planes since. Now cars...that's a different story. Especially when they're going uphill!

Peter_Durand's picture

(post #57237, reply #29 of 127)

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Hello Sandra,

Talk about irrational fears…you will never find me at the top of a ladder, or on a roof for example. I do have a fear of heights except for airplanes. Go figure.

Peter

cam14's picture

(post #57237, reply #30 of 127)

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Me too, Sandra and Peter. I too, can be paralysed with fright when it comes to heights - except for airplanes.